The Chattanooga Film Festival (CFF) will make its long awaited return this summer from June 23 – 29. Celebrating its 10th anniversary, after being named one of “The 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine, the festival will return to the ground June 23 – 25, while still offering a virtual experience from June 23 – 29.
While the festival will have various locations around the city, the main venue will be Chattanooga’s historic and legendary haunted The Read House Hotel. The hotel’s 1920s beauty and the tale of Room 311, with resident ghost Annalisa, make it the perfect backdrop for the festival’s 10th Anniversary.
Opening the festival will be the Southeast premiere of Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls is based on director Andrew Bowser’s viral character Onyx, who has racked up over 300 million plus views online. Later that evening, Onyx the Fortuitous himself will preside over the CFF’s opening night party, the Black Magic Masquerade. This event has the festival collaborating once again with Chattanooga Whiskey for an evening of costumes and cosplay, mingling and madness, spooky tunes and killer signature cocktails.
This year’s CFF will see the world premiere of Sour Party from filmmakers Amanda Drexton and Michael A. Drexton, one of the programming team’s favorite debut features of 2023. The film centers around Gwen (Samantha Westervelt) and James (Amanda Drexton), two flailing thirtysomething besties that are as broke as they are self-absorbed. When circumstances set the duo out on a bizarre odyssey across Los Angeles to collect “debts,” featuring delightful appearances from the likes of Reggie Watts and Corey Feldman, you’re left with a feminist twist on the buddy comedy that you won’t be able to help but fall in love with.
On the other end of the spectrum is the world premiere of director Stephen Vanderpool and writer/star Sam Brittan’s Tearsucker. The plot is a dark and surreal journey that revolves around a psychopath that feeds on women’s tears. Filled with Lynchian tone shifts and dynamic performances that will make you squirm in your seat, Brittan’s haunting rumination on toxic masculinity and equally toxic power dynamics will lodge itself in the darkest corners of your mind.
As CFF did with their 2022 fan-favorite film PUSSYCAKE, the festival is proud to partner again with our pals at Cinedigm and Screambox on a pair of must-see films that will please horror fans looking for exciting new voices in horror cinema. The first is Japanese filmmaker Keishi Kondo’s mind-melting debut feature, New Religion. Kondo mixes a surreal ghost story with body horror, resulting in a wildly atmospheric and gripping film.
Dark Star Pictures will present two special screenings for festival attendees. First, the opening film in the festival’s popular CFF After Hours block is Daphné Baiwir‘s masterful deep dive into the world of Stephen King film adaptations, King On. Screen, Dark Star will also give CFF attendees a chance to see the terrifying psychological and body horror film The Elderly, from filmmakers Raúl Cerezo and Fernando González Gómez.
On the live event side of things, CFF leans deeper into darkness with special return appearances by bestselling authors. screenwriters and longtime festival favorites Clay McLeod Chapman (Whisper Down the Lane, Netflix’s “Wendell & Wild”) and Grady Hendrix (The Final Girl Support Group, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires).
Chapman will help kick off the festival’s opening day with an event that’s become a sacred tradition to CFF fans—The Pumpkin Pie Show, which showcases Chapman’s wild and unhinged abilities as a live storyteller. This year he’ll present Ghost Eaters and Other Stories, featuring readings from his latest novel The Ghost Eaters. It’s a perfect reminder to guests that there’s nothing better than curling up in a haunted hotel with one of the world’s foremost tellers of scary tales.
Hendrix returns with a brand new live show How To Sell a Haunted House, based on his recent novel of the same name. Those who’ve seen Hendrix break down the weird world of pulp horror paperbacks and rowdy dissection of the slasher film sub-genre during past editions of the festival know Grady’s shows are as hilarious as they are packed with fascinating information and occasionally even songs!
CFF will also pay tribute to the iconic horror anthology series Tales from the Crypt with a series of special events woven throughout this year’s festival. The celebration will kick off with a pop-up comic shop salute to the series’ bloody beginning in the pages of EC Comics, conjured from the depths of darkness by the folks at Infinity Flux Comics.
Next up is a special live episode of The How NOT To Make a Movie Podcast, hosted by two people that know the crypt all too well, longtime Tales from the Crypt writers, directors, producers Gil Adley and A L Katz. Their wild podcast, named one “The Best Film Podcast of 2022” by Entertainment Weekly, centers around the infamous hellish experience they had making Bordello of Blood.
The salute continues with Bordello of Blood: LIVE COMMENTARY, presented by Diabolik DVD, which will give insight from Adler and Katz about how they found themselves in the impossible situation of the studio forcing them make a film that not only nobody wanted, a situation that also ended their friendship effectively for over 20 years. Part cinema therapy, we’re sure this event will haul a few more skeletons out of the Bordello closet.
Finally, as we once returned Sam Jones’s voice to Flash Gordon, CFF aims to right yet another cinematic wrong with a live script reading of the pair’s never made true Demon Knight follow-up, Dead Easy. This event will have a cast of your genre film favorites, as they pay tribute to Adler and Katz.
The valuable lessons the festival learned about accessibility during its online editions cemented their commitment to making a virtual component a permanent part of the event each year. Of equal importance to festival director and film programmer Chris Dortch and his team, is that the festival’s virtual offerings will in no way feel like an afterthought. As with the last 3 years, the virtual component of this year’s festival will feel like a fully-fledged festival experience consisting of features, shorts, and exclusive live events.
Also coming to the virtual line up is the festival’s new Red Eye block, a series of seven lovingly selected secret screenings happening at the end of every day that are designed to squeegee your third eye and to help you avoid the tyranny of “good” taste.
The festival’s Fans and Filmmakers Discord Server makes its triumphant return as well this year..The server, which does everything from host channels for each year’s films, giving filmmakers the ability to answer questions and offer personal insight and additional context, as well as see instant feedback on their films from attendees. The server also will be home base for nightly watch parties for films and events, both of which have become extremely popular.
Hybrid and Virtual VIP badges are on sale now. For guests that pick up one of the festival’s Hybrid VIP passes, an entire weekend of in-person screenings, events, and parties await June 23 – 25, and when the on-the-ground days are over, there’s still a lot more festival left to explore from June 26 – 29. Those that opt for virtual will have access to films and select live events from June 23 – 29. Please note that virtual access is only for those in the US. For more information, head to chattfilmfest.org.
King On Screen: Director Daphné Baiwir | France, USA, 2022
Presented by Dark Star Pictures
Synopsis: 1976, Brian de Palma directs Carrie, the first novel by Stephen King. Since then, more than 50 directors have adapted the master of horror’s books, in more than 80 films and series, making him the most adapted author still alive in the world. King On Screen reunites filmmakers that have adapted Stephen King’s books for cinema and TV.
*In-person and virtual.
New Religion: Director Keishi Kondo | Japan, 2022
Presented by Screambox
After her daughter’s death in an accident, Miyabi gets a divorce, starts working as a call girl and moves in with her new boyfriend. In a meeting with a new customer, he asks to take a picture of her body — first her spine, then, her feet, and after that, he begins to photograph her every time they meet. One day, while at home, Miyabi feels a small hand touching her leg and soon realizes that every time she allows her body to be photographed she can feel her daughter’s spirit reaching closer and closer. Soon, only her eyes remain to be captured, leading to the outcome which defines this unique art-house fantasy from a culture-shocking Japanese voice.
*In-person and virtual.
Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls: Director Andrew Bowser | USA, 2023
Opening Night Film
The story follows fledgling occultist Marcus J. Trillbury (Onyx) as he attends a once-in-a-lifetime ritual at his idol Bartok the Great’s dark mansion. Once there, Marcus meets a group of other occultists and they are led in a series of rituals meant to “better them.” But as terrible things begin to happen, it soon becomes clear that Bartok’s intentions are more nefarious. As Onyx and his new friends battle to keep their souls, a question of great destiny looms over Onyx’s head: is he doomed to be a nobody or will he rise to defeat Bartok and save his friends from damnation?
Sour Party: Directors Amanda Drexton, Michael A. Drexton | USA, 2023
Sour Party follows Gwen and James, two broke, flailing 30-somethings on a quest to scrounge money from a collection of low lives and failed artists in an attempt to show up to Gwen’s sister’s baby shower with a proper gift.
Tearsucker: Director Stephen Vanderpool | USA, 2023
Emotionally vulnerable women are preyed on by a charming psychopath who wants to suck their tears.
The Elderly: Directors Raúl Cerezo, Fernando González Gómez | Spain, 2022
Presented by Dark Star Pictures
After his beloved wife suddenly commits suicide, octogenarian Manuel starts behaving strangely, much to the distress of his family and his increasingly independent granddaughter. He becomes aggressive, still believes that he’s talking with his dead wife, and even tries to implant a radio receptor into his chest. His family are confused and angry, and as the temperature in Madrid literally rises due to a summer heat wave, it appears that Manuel isn’t the only senior citizen preparing for something big. All the elderly folk are acting suspiciously, and they all seem to know something the young ones don’t.
Black Magic Masquerade: Opening Night Party
In honor of our CFF 2023 Opening Night film Onyx the Fortuitous and the Talisman of Souls, we’re proud to partner with our buds at Chattanooga Whiskey for a sinful salute to the dark arts. Join CFF and Onyx himself for an evil evening filled with costumes and cosplay, creepy cocktails, death-obsessed DJs, freaky and fantastic pop-ups by our pals at Infinity Flux Comics, Yellow Racket Records, Snapdragon Hemp, and Liquid Death Mountain Spring Water, plus even more sinister secrets we can’t yet divulge. So grab your favorite mask, costume or cosplay attire, remind your parents that hell has cooler records, and prepare yourself for mayhem, as soon the dark ritual that is CFF’s 10th birthday celebration begins…
Bordello of Blood: Live Commentary
*Presented by Diabolik DVD
After the success of Demon Knight, the first Tales From the Crypt feature, filmmakers Gil Adler and A L Katz were busy preparing a follow-up, set in New Orleans, that was to be called Dead Easy. Sadly Dead Easy never got made, and instead, the pair were forced to adapt filmmaker Robert Zemeckis’s student screenplay Bordello of Blood into the second Tales from the Crypt feature film.
The making of Bordello is well-known to horror fans as one of the most horrifically troubled shoots in the genre’s history, with Adler and Katz facing impossible odds, impossible egos, and studio nonsense at every turn. CFF is proud to help them further exorcise these past cinematic demons with a very special 2023 edition of our live filmmaker commentary series. We join Adler and Katz as they watch the film that neither has been able to sit through in nearly 25 years, and we learn firsthand How NOT to Make a Movie.
Tales from the Crypt Comic Pop-up Shop
Hello, Kiddies!!!. Kicking off our Tales from the Crypt salute is a pop-up comic shop dedicated to the series’ bloody beginnings in the pages of EC Comics, conjured from the depths of darkness by the folks at Infinity Flux Comics. Join us at our opening night party, the Black Magic Masquerade, to grab a few classic Tales from the Crypt comic books.
P.S. If you bring them to the live podcast, Gil Adler and A L Katz will be signing memorabilia.
Dead Easy: Live Script Reading
Featuring an “all-scar” cast of genre cinema fan favorites, CFF is proud to have Gil Adler and A L Katz join us for a live script read of Dead Easy — their never filmed follow-up to Tales from the Crypt’s first feature film Demon Knight. If you’re a Tales from the Crypt fan, you know what a treat this is going to be, and if you’re a CFF fan, you’ll know we’ve got a few tricks for you too.
The How NOT to Make a Movie Podcast (Live Recording)
There’s simply no way to pay tribute to the incredible gateway to the world of horror that Tales from the Crypt was to so many of us, without paying tribute to longtime series stalwarts Gil Adler and A L Katz. Our salute wouldn’t be complete without a live episode of the podcast that brought these two legendary filmmakers back together. Our CFF exclusive live episode will allow longtime fans to ask Adler and Katz about the making of the classic series, get even more of a window into the creating, writing, and heartbeat of the classic HBO Series.
*In-person only. Adler and Katz will also be signing memorabilia.
How to Sell a Haunted House in a Challenging Market
New York Times bestselling author, Grady Hendrix, is back and he’s bringing a circus of chaos! Presenting another of his one-of-a-kind, one-man shows, in association with his latest book, How To Sell a Haunted House, this time he’s tap-dancing through the haunted hallways of spooky houses from Downton Abbey-sized country homes to split-level suburban ranchers as we try to figure out why we’re so obsessed with the world’s worst roommates — ghosts. This is the seminar that will change your life…guaranteed!
*In-person only. Book signing will take place after the event.
The Pumpkin Pie Show: Ghost Eaters and Other Stories
Horror author and performer Clay McLeod Chapman returns with a fresh batch of macabre tales fresh out of the oven. To celebrate the paperback release of his most recent novel, Ghost Eaters, Clay will regale audiences with a reading… and a few new spooky stories, to boot. Tales of madness, human monsters, and ghosts abound. Copies of Ghost Eaters will be sold by A Little Bookish.
*In-person and virtual. Book signing will take place after the event.
About the Chattanooga Film Festival:
The Chattanooga Film Festival (CFF) loves everything about cinema: the films, filmmakers, and the open-minded cinephiles that have watched films with us since early popup screenings as the Mise En Scenesters film club. The club evolved into the first-ever Chattanooga Film Festival, which began in 2014 and over the past 10 years has made a name for itself among film lovers, filmmakers, and the entertainment industry. Over the years the festival has been hailed as the “Southern Sundance” by Southern Living Magazine and was chosen as one of the “25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World” by MovieMaker Magazine in 2022 and made their “Bloody Best Genre Fests in the World” for 2020 and 2019. In addition, the festival has been included in “Dread Central’s Best Horror Festivals in the World” for 2021 and 2022.
CFF shares films and events that are unique, challenging and significant and showcase a diverse roster of up and coming filmmakers from all over the world. CFF ultimate goal is to remember, discover, and cultivate cinema worthy of everyone’s love and respect. As always, CFF is proudly continuing its mission to “Respect Cinema,” in hopes of increasing film exhibition, education, and production in the state of Tennessee.
For more information, visit chattfilmfest.org and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.